The Duck Curve: What Is It and Is It a Drawback? | Digital Noch

The Duck Curve: What Is It and Is It a Drawback? | Digital Noch

What seems like a duck, does not quack and is inflicting a variety of complications for vitality utilities around the globe, particularly in California? It is the duck curve, and it might have a big impression on the best way your utility treats your rooftop photo voltaic manufacturing.

Why? Vitality grid operators are at all times performing a balancing act between the technology of electrical energy and the demand for it. An excessive amount of vitality means assets are going to waste. Too little and you’ve got blackouts or brownouts. Nonetheless, there’s some predictability for demand. When most individuals are asleep at evening, demand is at its lowest. As our alarm clocks rock us out of our beds and we begin flicking on lights and making breakfast, demand will increase. Demand then stays flat or dips in the course of the day as folks work. As folks return residence, demand will increase as folks prepare dinner dinner and presumably stream some TV. Then the cycle repeats.

Issues had been pretty easy for utilities when there have been just a few sources of vitality manufacturing, specifically fossil fuels like pure fuel. Including solar energy to the combo has difficult issues.


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“Not like typical energy crops (for instance, nuclear, coal-fired and pure gas-fired crops), photo voltaic and wind assets cannot be absolutely dispatched at will to assist meet demand, and utilities might need to curtail them to guard grid operations,” in keeping with the US Vitality Data Administration. “Solar energy is just generated throughout daylight, peaking at noon when the solar is strongest and dropping off at sundown. As extra photo voltaic capability comes on-line, typical energy crops are used much less typically in the course of the center of the day, and the duck curve deepens.”

So what the quack is the duck curve?


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What’s the duck curve?

The duck curve is what you get once you plot day by day web vitality load in California on a graph. It is known as a duck curve as a result of it finally ends up resembling a duck. 

The duck curve, showing rising and falling demand throughout the day.

Do you see the duck?

California Unbiased System Operator/Screenshot Andrew Blok

“As increasingly photo voltaic comes on-line, it primarily offers overgeneration,” stated Tom McCalmont, CEO of Paired Energy. “Photo voltaic peaks round midday, when load is just not very excessive, however then ramps up dramatically within the late a part of the day when folks go residence, activate their ovens and lights, plug of their vehicles, no matter. The form of this factor is that you simply get the stomach of the duck.”

The early a part of the day, when demand is up, is the duck’s tail. The center of the day, when demand dips, is its stomach (which has deepened through the years as extra folks have adopted rooftop photo voltaic). The ramp up on the finish of the day varieties the duck’s neck earlier than petering out within the night to kind the duck’s head and beak.

What causes the duck curve?

The form of the duck tracks vitality demand all through the day, with peaks in the beginning and finish of the day however a deep valley in between. The explanation the stomach of the duck is getting deeper is that increasingly renewable vitality (together with photo voltaic) has come on-line. This considerably reduces the load that utilities need to cope with in the course of the day, when the solar is brightest and photo voltaic vitality manufacturing specifically is highest.

Why the duck curve issues

As extra photo voltaic vitality comes on-line and the duck curve deepens, it presents two large challenges to utilities, in keeping with the EIA: grid stress and economics. 

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“The ramp up is a giant downside — determining what to show off in the midst of the day when there’s an excessive amount of energy is an issue,” McCalmont stated.

The problems are worse within the evenings, when demand for vitality is excessive however there’s much less photo voltaic to rely upon. This shift causes typical energy crops to rapidly ramp up electrical energy manufacturing to match the vitality calls for of their prospects. The economics challenge offers with the truth that vitality crops now have extra competitors. As photo voltaic fulfills many individuals’s vitality wants, crops needn’t function at full capability, resulting in diminished revenues.

“If the diminished revenues make the crops uneconomical to take care of, the crops might retire with no dispatchable substitute,” the EIA stated. “Much less dispatchable electrical energy makes it tougher for grid managers to stability electrical energy provide and demand in a system with huge swings in web demand.”

How rooftop photo voltaic impacts the duck curve

As extra photo voltaic vitality comes on-line and the duck curve deepens, it presents two large challenges to utilities, in keeping with the EIA: grid stress and economics. 

“The ramp up is a giant downside — determining what to show off in the midst of the day when there’s an excessive amount of energy is an issue,” McCalmont stated.

The problems are worse within the evenings, when demand for vitality is excessive however there’s much less photo voltaic to rely upon. This shift causes typical energy crops to rapidly ramp up electrical energy manufacturing to match the vitality calls for of their prospects. The economics challenge offers with the truth that vitality crops now have extra competitors. As photo voltaic fulfills many individuals’s vitality wants, crops needn’t function at full capability, resulting in diminished revenues.

“If the diminished revenues make the crops uneconomical to take care of, the crops might retire with no dispatchable substitute,” in keeping with the EIA. “Much less dispatchable electrical energy makes it tougher for grid managers to stability electrical energy provide and demand in a system with huge swings in web demand.”

Options to the duck curve

The duck curve might current challenges to utilities, however the answer is laying in wait: battery storage. Slightly than simply having that extra photo voltaic be fed again into the grid when it is not wanted, it might be saved in batteries to be deployed at a later time.

“In case you have storage and may shift that peak time by only a few hours, that actually helps the duck curve,” McCalmont stated. “Take that extra photo voltaic in the midst of the day, as an alternative of turning it off, put that vitality right into a battery. Then at 4 p.m., once you want that vitality, discharge the battery to fulfill that ramp. That is a win-win for everyone and helps easy out the curve.”

This idea of utilities leveraging saved vitality is named a digital energy plant. Principally, as an alternative of counting on a single supply of vitality technology — a pure fuel plant, for instance — the utility can leverage a mixture of vitality sources. That plant might play an element, however so will close by photo voltaic and wind farms in addition to residential photo voltaic and batteries. This fashion, the utility is best ready for a ramp up in vitality demand with out the standard plant struggling to generate all of the wanted vitality, and there will not be main disruptions in service if one vitality technology technique experiences setbacks.

What’s holding this idea again is the necessity for extra battery storage. Photo voltaic batteries are costly at this second — nearly as expensive as a photo voltaic panel system itself — so many owners with photo voltaic merely haven’t got them. Utilities might begin subsidizing them within the close to future, however that can require laws to be drafted to permit them to take action. California, for its half, is not ready.

“Battery storage is swiftly being constructed in California; it is grown from 0.2 gigawatts in 2018 to 4.9 GW as of April 2023,” in keeping with the EIA. “Operators plan to construct one other 4.5 GW of battery storage capability within the state by the top of the yr.”

How does rooftop photo voltaic have an effect on the duck curve?

Rooftop photo voltaic deepens the “stomach” of the duck curve, as a result of it provides a variety of vitality to the grid when demand is low. However when rooftop photo voltaic is paired with batteries, it will possibly assist flatten the duck curve by offering vitality when it is wanted most.

How does the duck curve impression California?

The duck curve was virtually created for California, which leads the nation in rooftop photo voltaic adoption. With all its panels, a variety of vitality is generated in the midst of the day, when the solar is brightest however vitality demand is decrease.

Why is the duck curve an issue for distributed photo voltaic?

The duck curve is an issue for distributed photo voltaic as a result of it leads utilities to stopping the movement of vitality from photo voltaic programs to the grid. Because the solar creates “free” vitality, it is a waste of assets. Storing the vitality for later when demand is larger is the perfect answer.


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